Lancaster Park Woolston are confident of achieving back-to-back Christchurch Metro premier two-day titles for the first time since amalgamation with last season's championship-winning squad strengthened by key reinforcements.
Former Canterbury all-rounder Brent Findlay, who has scored 2143 runs and taken 157 wickets - at 15.03 - from 58 appearances in club cricket, is a welcome addition to a squad whose only issue is wicketkeeper Freddie Anderson's ongoing recovery from ankle surgery.
Anderson should be available mid-season and until then will be covered by Mark Reid and Scott Duggan, who is returning from England.
Findlay, 30, originally played for Old Boys-Collegians and then joined LPW when returning from Auckland, though he was unavailable last season due to work commitments.
"He's a really good cricketer, right up there as a professional," said player/coach Keryn Ambler.
All-rounder Tom Johnston is another important acquisition and will be keen to make a good impression against previous club Old Boys-Collegians when Lancaster Park Woolston open their defence at Garrick Park on Saturday.
"We're lucky to have a pretty settled squad. Being a strong club we do lose some players to rep commitments but we'll be targeting both those competitions and try and do the double." said Ambler, whose side was also third in last season's T20.
Burnside West Christchurch University coach Alex Reese also employed "settled" to describe a roster buoyed by finishing second in the two-day competition and runners-up in the T20.
"I know the guys have got heaps of confidence out of that …. to feel what it's like to get on a real roll," he said.
Former New Zealand international David Sewell, who played a test against Zimbabwe in 1997, has retired so fellow opening bowler Matt Farrant will lead the pace attack with Scott Inglis.
Rookie spinners Blake Coburn and Harry Wilson will also be expected continue their development while the onus is on captain and opening batsman Sam Noster to manage the inexperienced duo.
Reese nominated Lancaster Park Woolston as the club to beat and also thought Riccarton had recruited wisely by adding batting allrounder Liam Bartholomeusz from Oxford and Jared Cookson, an opener from East Christchurch Shirley.
However, player/coach Ben Rapson has lost last year's new ball attack of Ben Raine and Conrad Klintworth.
"That's the backbone of our seam attack, there's a bit of a hole for us there," he said, hoping Canterbury rep Hamish Bennett could fill in where possible, with support from Josh Hurrell and Jai Lyons.
Easts are regrouping after losing the Broom brothers, Neil and Darren, to Otago and retirement respectively.
Former Canterbury left armer Michael Davidson has also retired while Cookson's departure is another potential blow.
To compensate for those departures left hander Jeremy Duncan returns from Otago University and the club has lured Ajay Chouhan and Jason Benjamin from Wellington to bolster the batting line-up. Posting defendable totals shapes as the priority though new ball bowlers Nathan McNichol and Jared Roberts are pushing for Canterbury A selection.
Old Boys-Collegians might have lost Johnston's services but they have coaxed last season's leading runscorer Jeff Case from Marist-Harewood and Burnside West Christchurch University left armer Phil McCormack to Elmwood Park.
Overseas player Craig Wallace has departed though there will still be a Scottish connection in the competition through A team all-rounder Dylan Budge, who only arrived on Friday to play for one-day champions St Albans.
The 20-year-old will debut, presumably jetlagged, against Sydenham alongside a revamped line-up.
Batsman James Richards and opening bowler David Twigg are unavailable though it is hoped Budge can cover both roles.
"He's very young, we'll see how he goes," said club captain Dan Johnston, who has also lost Canterbury pace bowler Kyle Jamieson to Lincoln in the Canterbury country competition.
Sydenham will be led by ageless 45-year-old former Black Cap Chris Harris, who continues as player/coach.
There are no significant losses from 2014-15 but several new signings, including young Indian-born batsman Harshal Vyas (Marist-Harewood) and wicketkeeper Lane Tutty (Riccarton).
Meanwhile, Canterbury women's coach Mark Lane faces an ominous task with a severely depleted Marist-Harewood side that is working towards reaching personal and team goals, rather than victories.
"It's a rebuilding season and creating depth in our stocks so we're competitive next season," he said.
The loss of Case when it was feared the club might not field a premier grade team and captain Matt Winter's decision to play in Ashburton to further his Hawke Cup career after New Zealand Cricket recently changed the residential rule was compounded by the unavailability of bowler Shaun Stagg and opener Blake Ford due to back surgeries.
Opening round of two-day competition (Oct 3/10): Lancaster Park-Woolston v Old Boys-Collegians; Marist-Harewood v Burnside West Christchurch University; East Christchurch-Shirley v Riccarton; Sydenham v St Albans.
2014-15 competition winners:-
Men's Premier two-day: Lancaster Park Woolston
Men's Premier one-day: St Albans
Men's Premier T20: East Christchurch Shirley
Thanks to Chris Barclay of Stuff.co.nz for the article